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Tax breaks for corporate crime

LowDown

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'Do the crime, do the time," goes the old saying. Unless of course, the criminals are corporate executives.

In those cases, the culprits are practically always given a "Get out of jail free" card.

Even the corporate crimes that produce horrible injuries, illnesses, death, etc., are routinely settled by fines and payoffs from the corporate treasury, with no punishment of the honchos who oversee what amount to crime-for-profit syndicates. The only bit of justice in these money settlements is that some of them have become quite large, with multibillion-dollar "punitive damages" meant to deter the perpetrators from doing it again. Yet, the same bad corporate actors seem to keep at it.

What's going on here is a game of winkin' & noddin' in which corporate criminals know that those headline-grabbing assessments come with a secret escape hatch. Congress has generously written the law so corporations can deduct much of their punitive payments from their income taxes!

As Sen. Pat Leahy points out, "This tax loophole allows corporations to wreak havoc and then write it off as a cost of doing business."

For example, oil giant BP certainly wreaked havoc with its careless oil rig explosion in 2010, killing 11 workers, deeply contaminating the Gulf of Mexico, and devastating the livelihoods of millions of people along the Gulf coast. So, BP was socked with a punishing payout topping $42 billion. But — shhhh — 80 percent of that is eligible for a tax deduction, a little fact that was effectively covered up by the bosses and politicians.

Sen. Leahy has introduced legislation to lock down this escape hatch for thieves, killers, and executive-suite villains. For more information on the moral outrage of ordinary taxpayers being forced to subsidize corporate criminals, contact U.S. Public Interest Research Group at uspirg.org.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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